Amalie’s story | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

I was travelling around Southeast Asia and was in Indonesia when I heard about Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” I booked a flight right away to go and help out.


I found this wonderful lady, Arlene Tones Silao, through the website She brought me into her family and they all treated me as their kin. They introduced me to Philippine culture, delicious food and good community.


I read that there was a need for volunteers at Villamor Air Base so I went there with Arlene and some of her relatives. We volunteered at the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen, which was established by the greathearted mountain man, Alex Baluyut, and his wife Precious Leano. They started with two stoves, cooking rice porridge and boiled eggs. Soon the project expanded—chefs and other volunteers gathered to cook and serve food for incoming refugees from all over the Visayas, army personnel and others.


Two weeks after Yolanda struck, two girls, Bianca De Mesa and Marianne Dee, went to Tacloban to see for themselves the situation. They listened to the survivors’ stories. Bianca and Marianne had access to air transport, so, together with the people they had met in Leyte, they came up with the Sunshine Project For Visayas. Maryl Robleza became the project organizer.


The idea was to let the survivors know that they have not been forgotten. The Department of Social Welfare and Development had announced on TV that it would stop distributing relief goods in Leyte by Dec. 31. It seemed that the message was, the government agency doesn’t want the people to rely on help from outside, that they should take care of themselves. The problem is, there is nothing for them to start with. Everything is in ruins. How can you apply for a job when there is no office standing?


I was asked to join a team going to Tacloban and I was grateful to do so. We flew in with a Japanese C-130 carrying ingredients to cook nourishing food.


When we arrived at the airport, everybody welcomed us with open arms. A soldier approached me and we began talking about the situation; he told me that he had lost his wife and 3-year-old daughter in the storm.


He was on-duty when Yolanda hit, and couldn’t make it home to rescue his own family. He had a calm and collected presence while recounting his experience.


It takes an unimaginable strength to go through this kind of disaster, and that is what I felt and appreciated from the Filipino people.


The sights I saw when we drove through Tacloban City were depressing. Everything was in ruins—houses torn apart, cars swept into trees, trash everywhere. But people were still smiling—that’s one thing I will always remember. They who had lost everything, including family members, could still afford to smile. Their way of coping with a situation like this was unbelievable.


The survivors I talked to have not lost hope; they have the will to live. One of them said, “What else is there to do than try to keep the positive energy?”


The spirit of the Filipino people is a power and a state of mind that the whole world could learn from.


Project Sunshine was very efficient. I will always remember the energy that sustained us every day while we were in Tacloban. The team members became very close to each other; we are all heading back to Tacloban on Dec. 17.





Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.